Welcome to author Tara Lush for a return visit to Cozy Capers. She always keeps things interesting and I’m sure you’ll enjoy this interview as much as we did.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I don’t have any! Grounds for Murder was my debut cozy mystery and I was fortunate to have been picked up by a publisher (Crooked Lane Books) right away. I also write romance and had written several romances before trying to write a mystery.
How much time do you spend on research before starting a book? While writing?
I spend at least a month plotting my mysteries. I find that plotting and research on the front end allows the writing to flow easier. I plot down to the chapter and scene. My books are contemporary, set in Florida (where I live) so I don’t do a lot of research when it comes to that part of the writing. Because my series is set in a coffee shop, I have done vast amounts of research in coffee shops. For the book, of course 😉
Seriously, I did do a lot of research on coffee while writing. At one point pre-pandemic, I even took a coffee tour in my city, where a coffee expert took me to various cafes and explained different blends, methods of brewing and other coffee details. A lot of that went into my books.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I walk every day. We live in St. Petersburg, Florida, where there are beautiful parks and beaches. I try to get out into nature once a day because it helps my creative brain. I also do yoga, and love to cook.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Mysteries take me a while — probably around six months from the time I begin plotting until the time I type “the end.” I find that plotting and writing a mystery is like a giant mental puzzle.
What is your favorite childhood book(s)?
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I purchased a lifetime pass to the PLOTTR software. It’s quite wonderful, and allows me to lay out a timeline of plots, days, events and other details of my books. I use it for my mysteries and it’s a game-changer. I highly recommend it for people who enjoy plotting their books before they begin writing. It keeps me on track and I always know what I’m working on — no sticky situations or dead ends!
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Just do it. Don’t be afraid. Go ahead and write the story that’s swirling around your brain.
Describe your current writing spot or space.
I have three main writing spots. One is my desk in my home office, which is light-filled and decorated with a unicorn planter containing a tiny succulent. The other is my sofa, because I like to hang out where my dogs are. The third is in my car — since the pandemic, I’m not able to write in coffee shops anymore, so I take my car and computer to the waterfront and get some words down there.
Do you write under a pseudonym? If not, have you ever considered it?
My real name is Tamara Lush — perfect for romance novels — and that’s the name I write those steamy books under. I write cozy mysteries under a slightly different name: Tara Lush. The two genres are so different, so I wanted to distinguish between the two.
What comes first for you, the plot or characters?
The characters, and specifically, the murder. I need to know who the victim is, and why they were killed, before I can plot or decide on anything else. I always plot the murder first, and the motive.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I rely on a lot of baby name websites. Also, I calculate how old the characters are and look at popular names during the year they were born.
Where do you set your books, and why?
I set my mysteries in Florida. I’m a former crime journalist so I’ve covered a lot of murder and mayhem here in the Sunshine State. I draw from that experience as a reporter in my cozy mysteries. Florida is the perfect inspiration because it’s weird and wonderful in so many ways.
What’s next for you and your writing?
The second book of the Coffee Lover’s Mystery Series will be published by Crooked Lane Books in December 2021. I’m also plotting a new cozy series right now and will begin writing that soon. I can guarantee there will be lots of Florida oddities, a ton of humor, and a touch of murder!
Tara Lush is a Florida-based novelist and journalist. She’s an RWA Rita finalist, an Amtrak writing fellow and the winner of the George C. Polk award for environmental journalism. For the past dozen years, she was a reporter with The Associated Press, covering crime, alligators, natural disasters and politics. She also writes contemporary romance set in tropical locations. Tara is a fan of vintage pulp fiction book covers, Sinatra-era jazz, 1980s fashion, tropical chill, kombucha, gin, tonic, seashells, true crime podcasts, Art Deco, telenovelas, street art, coconut anything, strong coffee and newspapers. She lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband and two dogs.